Sufi Music

The music of love. Truly wonderful, inspiring and uplifting music. (At it’s best, it is accurately described as “enlightening”.)

Originally published 2008

Sufi Music Samples

DEBU: Palace Troubadour
These guys are making a career out of Sufi poems set to music from a variety of middle eastern traditions.
As the site says so well, they’re about the spirit of True Love.
Eliyahu Sills:
These guys are in the Berkeley area.
Same concept. Sufi music & lyrics.

Either of these groups is capable of performing something I have seen done exactly once. That “thing” was a combination of Indian chant and taksim…and it was amazing.

Hindu Chant + Arabic Taksim: Shambho Shankara

Taksim is the art of musical improvisation, where people take turns. They go around in a circle, with everyone else droning on the tonic while one person improvises on a given scale. When they’re done, the next player takes a turn.

I’ve sat in those sessions, and they’re good. It can be difficult to pick up the scale and rhythm, for lack of repetition, but they’re fun, even so.

Then there are Indian chants. Awesome stuff. Especially the Shiva chants. They send me into orbit, perhaps because the first time I heard this done, Gerald Trimble (and ensemble) did it with “Shambu Shankara”.

Chants, however, have a way of being repetitious. So unless you’re really into it, they can become boring. But that very repetition builds the listener’s “ear”, so the scale and the rhythm become familiar. An educated jazz or classical music always appreciates the music more. In effect, the repetitions of the chant educates the audience during the course of the performance.)

The one time I heard a combination of the two, it was a performance given by Gerald Trimble. He had a large Bouzouki, and he had put together an ensemble consisting of a violin, a doumbek, and one other instrument.

It turns that he had been studying Indian chants with Ravi Shankar’s sister, who lives in the states. He vocalized with strength, lifting his head up, opening his vocal chords all the way, and practically roaring the lyrics. He did that a few times, and they went into a round of taksim, then another few sets of lyrics, and another round of taksim.

They did that cycle 5 or 6 times, for a total of 8 minutes. By the second minute, I was sitting bolt upright, legs crossed under my chair, in a trance/meditation. By the fourth minute, I was lifting off. Somewhere around minute six I lost contact with the earth and was soaring on the music. I mean to tell you, it was wonderful.

The good news is that I have a recording of that event. It was many years ago, at this point (1999), so I don’t think Gerald would mind if I posted it. Here it is in WAV format and MP3.

Most unfortunately, I had the settings wrong on the recorder, so I got all the bass, and almost none of the treble. (Probably just as well. Otherwise, you might join me in orbit.) But it gives you a taste of this wonderful concept in music. For the best sound, turn the treble all the way up, turn the bass way low, and crank the volume. (Just remember to turn the volume back down when you’re done!)

For another version, and lyrics, see the entry on the Mantra Magic page. (Check out the rest of that page for other great mantra music.)

Krishna Das

Here’s another chant that could be the basis for something wonderful. It’s another Shiva chant, this time by Krishna Das: Namah Shivaya. (See sample #12 on the Amazon page. In the box, it’s #4 on the second CD.)

That chant is so good that it almost doesn’t need anything else. But I’d really love to hear it with taksim!

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